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Biotechnology

WHAT IS BIOTECHNOLOGY

Literally speaking, biotechnology refers to the application of our knowledge of biological phenomena to serve our economic and social needs. However, this extremely broad definition is not very useful, as it embraces almost all aspects of our society from agriculture to beer and wine fermentations, to medicine, cheese and bread making, plant and animal breeding, cloning, embryo transfer, and even mining of certain metals with bacteria.

A more modern and focused definition which is more consistent with current usage would limit the term to the application of modern techniques of molecular biology and bioinformatics to solve industrial and scientific problems. However, this definition is still quite broad as it includes such applications as transgenic animals and plants, marine natural products, recombinant bacteria and fungi for the production of proteins, comparative genomics for research into evolutionary relationships and the genetic basis of disease, gene arrays for the study of gene expression and developmental biology, and the myriad applications of cell and tissue culture in research and industry.

The Puerto Rico Biotechnology Alliance is focusing its efforts on the application of molecular biology and bioinformatics to health and medical research. Given that Puerto Rico has a strong pharmaceutical industry on which to build a biotech infrastructure, biomedical applications are the most obvious growth path for this industry on the island, although we do not exclude applications such as environmental and marine biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology and biomass for energy. Furthermore, our emphasis conforms with the national science and technology policy as well as with the cluster based development initiative of the Government of Puerto Rico.

Unlike any other life science, biotechnology requires expertise in computer science, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and engineering to bring innovation into this new demanding scientific era, which makes Puerto Rico’s bicultural, bilingual, and highly educated workforce a perfect complement to any company’s biotechnology efforts.

Biotechnology and BioEngineering contribute to the development of new diagnostics and therapies to identify and combat diseases. Some of their outstanding characteristics are:

Biotechnology

Creates biological knowledge from the molecular to the organism systems levels

Develops powerful biological tools that employ living organisms to:

  • Make or modify products
  • Improve plants or animals
  • Develop microorganisms for specific uses

Bioengineering

Creates functional knowledge from the molecular to the organ systems levels.

Develops innovative approaches (biologics, materials, processes, implants, devices, and informatics) for:

  • Prevention
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment of disease
  • Patient rehabilitation
  • Improving health